Ever since the 1977 introduction of fluoride to Melbourne’s water supply, fluoride has been a hot topic among Melburnians. There are varying opinions on the matter, but we believe it is important to focus on the available evidence and maintain a clear understanding of the proven role of fluoride in dental health.
Many arguments against fluoride focus on water fluoridation as “mass medication” of a population or on the problematical ingestion of a “chemical”.
But the fluoride in toothpaste, unlike the fluoride in water, is intended to be used topically and should not be swallowed, especially by children. High-fluoride pastes should be used only by adults and carefully stored.
Used as a topical agent in the mouth, this natural mineral can decrease hypersensitivity and certainly helps to prevent damage to the tooth surface from decay and acid erosion.
In the presence of acids – which can occur when we eat acidic foods or from the by-products created by bacteria – tooth enamel will lose minerals. These acid attacks will slowly weaken the tooth and may eventually cause a hole or cavity. However, when saliva neutralises the acid attacks in the presence of calcium and phosphate, the tooth enamel will microscopically repair itself.
When fluoride toothpaste is applied to the tooth surface or is mixed with saliva, the enamel will take up this mineral, strengthening the surface and making it less susceptible to acid attack – thus reducing the risk of damage to our teeth from bacteria and acids such as soft drinks, citric acid or reflux.
Therefore, when aiming to prevent dental decay, it is important to focus on a balanced diet that limits sugar intake and acids, as well as on the physical removal of plaque through brushing and interdental cleaning (with dental floss or interdental brushes). If, despite all of the evidence in favour of fluoride, you choose to refrain from using products containing this mineral, the habits just mentioned take on an even greater importance in dental disease prevention.
Also, products such as Tooth Mousse can provide increased remineralisation and decreased sensitivity without the use of fluoride.